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Illinois vs. Kent State - 9/1/18 College Football Pick, Odds, and Prediction

Kent State Golden Flashes (0-0) at Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)

College Football: Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm (Memorial Stadium-Champaign)

The Line: Illinois Fighting Illini -16 -- Over/Under: 55.5 See the Latest Odds

TV: BTN

The Kent State Golden Flashes and Illinois Fighting Illini meet Saturday in college football action at Memorial Stadium.

The Kent State Golden Flashes have won no more than three games in each of the last four seasons and now have Sean Lewis leading the way, the youngest coach in the country at 31 years old. Lewis will speed up the tempo of the offense, and he has a capable quarterback in Woody Barrett, who was at one point a 4-star recruit at Auburn. Kent State has its top four receivers from last year returning, as well as running back Justin Rankin, who had 490 yards and three touchdowns. There’s potential for the Golden Flashes to be much improved on the offensive side. Defensively, Jim Jones is one of the better linebackers in the MAC and it’s going to be key getting Matt Bahr back from injury. Throw in cornerback Elvis Hines, and Kent State has some respectable defenders to improve this side of the ball as well. The Kent State Golden Flashes have lost four of their last five season openers. 

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Illinois vs. Kent State - 9/1/18 College Football Pick, Odds, and Prediction

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini have won just five games in the first two seasons under Lovie Smith, so there’s nowhere to go but up for a program that’s made just one bowl game in the last six years. Rod Smith is expected to speed up the tempo of the offense and a more mature offensive line should drastically help things. Wide receiver Ricky Smalling has real potential after leading the team in receiving as a freshman and one of their four returning running backs have to breakout eventually after averaging just 3.2 yards per carry as a team. The main question is quarterback. Anyone? Anyone? Defensively, Bennett Williams returns after three interceptions as a freshman and Del'Shawn Phillips could be an all Big Ten player after leading Illinois in tackles last season. The Illinois Fighting Illini are a more experienced team than a year ago, and while the elite talent still isn’t there, this should be a more competitive side this season.

The Golden Flashes are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games, 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games in September and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Fighting Illini are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games, 5-12 ATS in their last 17 home games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games on fieldturf. The under is 6-2 in Fighting Illini last 8 home games and the over is 4-1 in Golden Flashes last 5 games overall.

The Illinois Fighting Illini have questions at quarterback and you have to question if Smith is built for the college game after so many years in the NFL. There's reasons to doubt Illinois, even if there's some under the radar talent that could carry this team and surprise some folks. Kent State is a very green team that has yet to prove much of anything recently and has provided no value betting wise, failing to cover numbers left and right. If Illinois is going to make any noise in the Big Ten this season, this is a game it should have no problem winning. So, while I'm not loving a double-digit spread, I'll take it. I have more confidence in the Fighting Illini winning in a blowout than I do of Kent State hanging around.

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